If you love books, buy them whenever you can

I was introduced to a woman at a friend’s birthday party a while ago. The host thought we should meet because we both love to read so much. I remember very little about her physically; slightly heavy build, brown hair, maybe in her late 40s. I don’t remember her name.

What I do remember, very clearly, was her declaration that she loves to read, but she never buys a book. She only borrows books from the library or from friends.

“I will never pay to read a book,” she said with an air of pride usually saved for actual accomplishments.

I have few regrets, but I have regretted that I never took her to task on her smug and ridiculous announcement. But it was a birthday party and I didn’t want to create any sort of social awkwardness, or more importantly, risk being tossed out before I had my fill of crab dip. So I will take her to task now, even though she isn’t likely to see it.

But I must begin with some disclaimers:

  • I read books from the library, and I borrow books from friends. Both are wonderful ways to be introduced to new books and new writers. I also do this because I can’t afford to buy every book I want to read.
  • I understand that some people can’t afford to buy books at all. Books are not inexpensive. If books don’t fit your budget you should never feel bad about borrowing them instead.
  • Some people enjoy reading and although they can afford to buy books, it’s not where they choose to put their money. Who am I to tell someone how they should spend their money?

The last disclaimer should have party lady covered, right? It’s her money, and she doesn’t want to buy books. None of my business.

Except that she was so freaking proud of it; and acting like the rest of us book buying chumps were being taken for fools. I wish I had asked her if she sneaks into movie theatres or dashes out of a restaurant without paying her bill.

People who buy books are the people supporting the writers who write them. Why does party lady get all the enjoyment without any contribution? Maybe the friends she borrows from would like her to be the one to pay for the book for once.

Imagine saying I love to bake, but I never buy any ingredients, I just borrow them from my neighbor.

It’s great to swap books with friends, and libraries are vital to ensure equal access to everyone in the community, but if you love to read, respect the writers who feed your habit, and buy a book from time to time.


(It is true that Canadian writers can participate in the Canada Council for the Arts Public Lending Right Program, which endeavors to pay authors based on library use, but it doesn’t match royalties, and doesn’t apply to writers from other countries.)

Canada by Mike Myers – part autobiography, part love letter

2017-01-21_1101I just finished reading Canada by Mike Myers. I’ve been dipping into it since my son gave it to me for Christmas. I’m very easy to buy for; you can’t go wrong if the gift is related to reading or Canada, so this choice hit it out of the park. And it just happens to have been written by a Canadian that I think is very funny and a terrific ambassador for our country.

The book is somewhat of an autobiography of comedian/actor Mike Myers. I say somewhat, because like a miner panning for gold, he sifts the sand from his riverbed of memories through the Canadian flag; looking for anything with a whiff of maple. Some readers may find that a bit heavy-handed, even a touch contrived at times. I ate it up like a bag of ketchup chips, licking my fingers clean of every speck of savoury red dust.

I am only two years older than Mike Myers and so the Canadian childhood he remembers from Scarborough, Ontario, has much in common with mine in Pierrefonds, Quebec. His Maple Leaf Gardens is my Montreal Forum, his sad Maple Leafs hockey team is my mighty Montreal Canadiens –sorry Mike. But we share Cherry Blossoms, Expo 67, the Eaton’s catalogue, Lonesome Charlie, Mr. Dressup (when Mr Dressup died shortly after 9/11, it felt like all goodness was draining from the world), The Friendly Giant, Stompin’ Tom, Canadian Tire and pretty much every other Canadian memory from growing up in the 60’s and 70’s.

The book is also a snapshot of Canada, but like any snapshot, it’s taken from a specific perspective. This is not a scholarly look at Canadian history or politics. It is one man’s memory, and often very funny, interpretation of what it means to be a Canadian. There is a definite viewpoint. This is not a book for anyone who misses Prime Minister Stephen Harper, or thinks Kellie Leitch is swell, (I do not).

Perhaps even more than a snapshot, it’s a love letter, and like all love letters, there is an element of giddy drunkenness, seeing mostly what is beautiful, quick to forgive the beloved’s flaws. (I actually found it hard to write that last sentence, because I am punch drunk in love with Canada too– I take it as a personal accomplishment whenever we make a list of best places to live).

But what’s wrong with a love letter in a world so full of cynicism?

If you are one of the millions of Canadians suffering from U.S. presidential flu, I suggest you vaccinate yourself by reading Canada by Mike Myers. It’s like enjoying Hickory Sticks and a Molson on a sunny May two-four weekend.

It’s also a reminder that we have so much to celebrate and be proud of, on our 150th birthday.

Canada by Mike Myers is published by Penguin Random House Canada.



The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

2016-07-15_1614This book is a train. It rocks and sways and keeps us off balance, it passes back and forth across the narrative, allowing us to pick up more details on each pass. The “windows” in our train are Rachel, Anna and Megan.

Rachel is The Girl on the Train, every day she glimpses life on Blenheim Road as she rumbles past, either to or from London. Some things she sees out the window are real, and some things are imagined, because Rachel is an alcoholic with a broken heart and spirit.

Anna lives on Blenheim Road. She is also the former mistress and current wife of Rachel’s ex-husband.

Megan lived on Blenheim Road until she went missing. (more…)

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

2016-07-15_1600I suppose I’m a bit late to the table talking about a book published in 2008, that went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 2009, but I have to admit I don’t always pay attention to the Pulitzer the way I do the Governor General’s Award or The Giller Prize. But no matter when it was published, I can’t imagine anyone reading this book and not wanting to tell everyone they know about it.

I heard of the book when I was watching the 2015 Golden Globes, because Frances McDormand was nominated for her role as Olive and they showed a clip. I liked what I saw and added the book to my list. I finally bought it just before Christmas and pulled it off the pile in January because it looked like a quick read. (more…)

Outline by Rachel Cusk

2016-07-15_1521My edition of Outline by Rachel Cusk has a quote from the New York Times Book Review on the cover. It says:

 “Lethally intelligent…spend much time with this novel and you’ll become convinced that [Cusk] is one of the smartest writers alive.”

I’m not sure I agree with lethal, but I agree that she is a fiercely intelligent writer, and I also agree that it takes time to come to that conclusion. I didn’t think I was going to like Outline when I was 10, even 20 pages into it. But the reviews and its prize nomination pedigree made me stick it out. Thank Goodness.

This isn’t a warm book, and I think for me, coming off my high from reading Olive Kitteridge in January, a book that is brilliant and emotionally gripping, Outline felt like it kept me at arms-length. Which isn’t surprising because Cusk completely roasts the old writing chestnut: Show Don’t Tell. This is a book about telling. It’s a book that would most likely have failed in other hands. (more…)